Reform and Resistance in Schools and Classrooms


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An Ethnographic View of the Coalition of Essential Schools

Donna E. Muncey and Patrick J. McQuillan

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What constitutes better schooling for today's youth? In 1984 educational theorist Theodore R. Sizer formulated nine Common Principles to answer this question and launched The Coalition of Essential Schools, an organization of schools attempting to change their own structure, curriculum, pedagogy, and power relations according to Sizer's Principles. This important book, the first comprehensive look at Coalition schools, charts the course of reform at eight charter member schools. The Coalition now counts over 900 private, parochial, public, urban, suburban, and rural secondary schools among its affiliates nationwide.

Donna E. Muncey and Patrick J. McQuillan, experts in anthropology as well as education, conducted a five-year ethnographic study to understand what happened in Coalition schools. The authors looked at curricular and pedagogical developments; how changes affected individual students, teachers, administrators, and other school personnel; and how American cultural beliefs influenced efforts to change. The schools' reform experiences differed: some efforts were sustained when others stalled, change divided some faculties while others found a sense of shared purpose, and the principals of some schools facilitated change while others clearly inhibited it. This compelling book, written for all who are concerned with education in America, offers a wealth of insights into the complexities of change efforts in individual schools and in classrooms.

Donna E. Muncey is a research faculty member at St. Mary's College of Maryland. Patrick J. McQuillan is assistant professor in the School of Education at the University of Colorado at Boulder. 

"An interesting and useful contribution to the literature on American high schools. These distinguished researchers describe, soberly and unflinchingly, one of the most significant reform movements of the 1980s."—Hervé Varenne, Teachers College, Columbia University

"This is a very good book, highly recommended for educators, educational policy makers, program evaluators, and ethnographers."—Thomas M. Johnson, American Anthropologist

ISBN: 9780300199819
Publication Date: May 28, 2013
330 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4